Brittle kept in place by RFU

Click to follow
The notion, widespread yesterday morning, that the Rugby Football Union was about to reach a settlement of its dispute with England's leading clubs turned to dust last night when the RFU committee balked at moving against the chairman of its executive, Cliff Brittle.

Some members had been considering seeking Brittle's removal as chairman of the RFU's negotiators after his refusal to meet representatives of English Professional Rugby Union Clubs on Wednesday. In the event the challenge was never mounted and instead the committee expressed the hope that Brittle, Bill Bishop, the RFU president, and Donald Kerr, chairman of Epruc, would swiftly meet again to resolve who controls professional club rugby and who takes the money from it.

What progress there has been occurred in Brittle's absence on Wednesday, when Bishop, having been appointed by the executive against Brittle's wishes as independent chairman of the union/club negotiations, decided to proceed without him. By Wednesday night Bishop was exuding optimism that a settlement was in reach.

Instead, there was a contradictory statement from the RFU last night which both extolled Bishop for effectively going behind Brittle's back and explicitly left Brittle in place. "The Rugby Football Union committee congratulated the president on the progress made in his discussions with Epruc, in particular the continued confirmation that the senior clubs wished to remain in the RFU," it said.

"The committee agreed with the president that a further meeting should be held as soon as possible under his independent chairmanship, with Cliff Brittle and Donald Kerr as leaders of the RFU and Epruc negotiating teams respectively, in order to bring the detail of these negotiations to a speedy conclusion."

Bishop yesterday denied a report that Brittle's supporters were threatening to have Tony Hallett, the RFU secretary, sacked. Brittle did recently ask Hallett for details of his contract, as well as that of Michael Humphreys, the RFU's media adviser - scarcely a chairman's vote of confidence.

Cup final previews, page 23